A red-tailed hawk (above) is growing new red deck feathers for its tail. It is changing from its juvenile to adult plumage.
The new feathers look like little paint brushes. People sometimes think the feathers coming in are blue because the feather shafts look blue. For this reason, baby songbirds are sometimes misidentified as blue jays!
You can see the results of the molt at your own backyard feeder. In late summer the cardinals, for example, may look like as if they have stayed out all night. Don't worry, they'll be back to normal soon.
Some birds also undergo a second partial molt just before the breeding season.
Posted July 18, 2000.
| This molting cardinal looks as though he has lost much of his brilliant red crest. |